Uprooted: After the Storm
Two nights ago, my preschooler suddenly got busy rounding up shoes and toys.
"It's time to go!" he announced jubilantly.
"Go where, sweetie?" I asked with considerably less energy. It was nearly ten o'clocklately it's been nearly impossible to get him to go to sleep much earlier.
"To our old house!"
He said it with such joy and eagerness, I can't tell you how hard it was to break it to him that, no, we couldn't go back to the old house.
Weeping, he said, "But I want my old room!" Here at the condo, he shuttles back and forth between the twin mattresses on the floor of the larger of the two bedrooms and our double bed in the smallerclose quarters compared to our sprawling king-size, now propped up in the storage pod.
We are so grateful to have this space. But we are so very ready to vacate it.
Patrick hit the wall the other day, announcing between tight lips that he was "restless, irritable and discontent," before storming outside to smoke about five cigarettes in a row. We have been working literally back to back in the dining room that we've converted to office space. An oddly-placed hearth is the only partion between this and the family room. Patrick's desk abutts the rear of the television, turned on more than usual with the bad weather and no yard to speak of.
Last night, I sent my eldest son to his room after being contradicted one too many times yesterday. He silently fumed at me with a rage I had nearly forgotten a child could feel for a parent. I gave him a minute or two to himself and then went up to talk to him. He kept his back turned and his arms crossed over his chest, palms grasping opposite shoulders, like he always does when he is hurting.
I talked to his back for a few minutes about parental respect, and cultivating a positive attitude, and the place of civil disobedience in a benign dictatorship such as our own. He was impenetrable.
I turned the lecture off. "C'mere," I said, and managed to coax his armadillo-rolled body next to mine.
"Look," I said. "I know it's hard right now to be living in-between. I know you are probably missing home..."
My armadillo uncoiled against me and began to sob, the heaving, rushing sobs that come from grief that's been gathering deep in the gut.
There was little I could say. It was as if we were huddled in the closet again, waiting for the storm to pass over.
I told him the things I missed about our house: watching he and his brothers climb the Japanese maple, the hidden places in the yard where they dug and played. I promised him that he would soon be climbing the trees in our new yard, digging new holes. I half-heartedly began the speech that "home is where the heart is," then abandoned it, because it's bullshit. I've been uprooted enough myself to know that sometimes home is a physical place you need desperately to get back to.
Tell a banked fish that home is where the heart is.
So I shut up, and held him and stroked his sandy brown hair until it was over. Then I told him to fill the tub and take a nice long bubble bath, bedtime be damned.
This morning, the sun was shining like it meant it, for the first time in days. And not to diminish the seriousness of flood conditions in our state after the weather of the past few weeks, but I felt like a kid on Snow Day when I heard that the soccer fields would likely be underwater this weekend.
The household tension had broken up and moved on. All clear. I took my camera and went for a walk around the block to take some more pictures of the tornado damage of last Thursday night.
Ten tornados in all were spawned by that storm. If I had to draw you a map showing the most direct route from our condo to our new home, it would look like the storm path printed in the next day's paper. We were unbelievably lucky. Belinda, Kristen, and their families too.
I don't know that there is any force of nature more random and non-sensical than a twister. Just steps from where a concrete light pole lies uprooted, lacelike wisteria and azaleas bloom unperturbed. Hundred and fifty year-old pines and oaks are strewn about like weeds plucked from a lawn. On the same block, a compact disc I noticed tossed from a car onto the sidewalk last week hadn't moved more than a foot.
Why here? Why not there? Why not now? Why me? Every one of us, from three years old to forty-four has had their turn at asking why this week, with grace and maturity probably in inverse proportion to chronological age.
I like to think God has been sitting with us the whole time we've had our backs curled and hearts covered, aching for us, loving us in all our ungrateful, impatient, ornery-ness. Doting on each marvelous strand of hair, adoring each miraculous, shimmering blossom.